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Every Picture Tells A Story: Tips to Build Graphics, Illustrations and Charts to Enhance Content

Every writer, editor and art designer knows (or should know) that the odds of a reader plowing through an entire magazine, newsletter or any lengthy publication are slim because readers are bombarded with options and have limited time.

But, as writers and editors, we know if readers invest the time, they will walk away smarter, wiser and in some cases their lives will forever be transformed.

So, how do we make that happen? As other bloggers have discussed, the design of your content is critical. Whether you work with a designer or just want to incorporate some of their tricks into your copy, follow the tips below to create picture-perfect prose.

When to think about design

When you gather information to write an article, always think about the design elements that can enhance your article to bring the page to life and provide pertinent subsets of information—and great eye-catching entry points for each page.

If you have the luxury of working with a designer, your goal from the get-go is to make sure you provide him or her with as much information as you can from primary and extended sources.  With a designer, or on your own, think about using multiple text and visual elements to construct an appealing layout that will immediately attract and engage readers.

Types of graphic and visual design

Because most readers skim, they prefer attention-grabbing displays of statistics and other data, and these become entry points to the text. Think about what information will add value and enhance the layout such as:

  • Sidebars
  • Pull quotes
  • Charts
  • Graphs
  • Short data points

Also consider visual elements such as:

  • Photographs
  • Art
  • Illustrations
  • Spot art
  • Logos

Where to find graphic and visual elements

Direct from the source
Ask your sources for data from their own research or leads about research from other sources you can tap to construct charts or graphs.  For visual elements such as photographs, don’t just ask the person you interview for a head shot. Instead, ask for an interesting photo of himself, perhaps outdoors or in a setting that has an interesting backdrop.

Web sites
Always go to the web site of the person, company, organization, etc., that is the subject(s) of your story. There almost always is some valuable art or content elements you can glean for your article. Often, there will be a press release library, executive bios, white papers, case studies, profiles, data, photographs and other gems that you can mine to enhance editorial and design.

Secondary sources
Consider secondary sources that can supply you with additional sidebars and charts:

  • Data from government or state agencies
  • Industry analysts, think tanks and professional associations
  • Authors and experts on the topic – often helpful for sidebar Q&As or brief interviews that complement the main story

New collaborations
The best way to create great visual elements is to collaborate. Send a draft to the art director so she can start to noodle about the key points of the article, and think about possible design treatments, art and illustrations that can marry well with the focus of the article.

Tip: Let the design team know in advance what possible sidebars, charts and other text elements you may be thinking about for the piece. This helps the layout process work better.

What other tips do you have to incorporate good design in your content? Share them below!